Posted by: iainjhunt | July 17, 2011

Three Cups of Coffee

By Iain Hunt, Waslala Project Manager

That’s three cups of coffee with Don Chico, the proverbial “pop” of one of Waslala’s mom-and-pop hardware stores, who, if they don’t have what you need, will find a way to get it (if you have a little patience).

Don Chico has long been one of Water for Waslala’s behind-the-scenes partners supporting our work on the ground, catering to all our whims and letting us rack up some hefty tabs. A typical visit to Don Chico’s hardware store goes something like this… I walk in and receive a hearty greeting for Don Chico, his wife Elizabeth, or one of their sons – whoever happens to be at the front desk.

They smile, sigh and offer me a seat, knowing that what I need isn’t going be so simple as picking up a pound of nails. If I’m planning on making a big purchase and have a long list of items, Don Chico comes out from the back (if he’s not already at the desk), and we slowly review each item one-by-one as he simultaneously attends to other customers with more ordinary requests. No visit is complete without sharing a cup of coffee and a conversation about life, the universe and everything with Don Chico.

Making a major purchase here requires at least three cups of coffee.

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been making the final large purchase for the El Guabo project – all supplies needed to string up a couple of suspended stream crossings, build a ferrocement tank, and install household tap stands. You have your first cup of coffee as you try to get the latest prices of the items you need, not as straightforward as one might imagine when you’re looking for items the store has never carried before.

The second cup of coffee comes when you make the purchase, when you hand over the final list of materials along with a check covering 50% of the cost so that the store’s truck can head out on its expedition to Managua’s Carreterra Norte and Mercado Mayoreo, where if you can’t find it, there’s a good chance it’s not available in Nicaragua.

Denis Taleno and the El Guabo crew string up a suspended crossing

But there’s more to the transaction.

Returning from its most recent journey, the store’s truck broke down between Matagalpa and Waslala. Bueeeeeeeeeeeeeno…

Don Chico managed to get almost everything (as well as the store’s restock supplies) to Waslala by hiring one of the many trucks that haul milk daily from Waslala to the capital and that would return empty if not for these odd jobs. But to get everything from Waslala to El Guabo required some creativity, a few headaches, and definitely a third cup of coffee. We coordinated with the truck drivers to haul some of the more immediately essential items to keep the work flow going for a day or two.  (Side note: Many of these trucks are 30+ years old.  The trucks also serve as informal public transportation of both people and agricultural products in many parts of Waslala). Over the next couple of weeks, other supplies arrived squeezed amongst speakers, guitars, and musicians in the back of the parish’s pickup on its way to celebrate mass in a community further down the road or, as needed on a number of occasions, clinging to my shoulder as I clung to the back of a motorcycle.

As the rainy season moves in, satiating thirsty corn and bean crops (but also bringing washed out roads and prolonged power outages), we’re going have to get even more creative to keep work going.

But if this work were easy, it wouldn’t be very solidario. Time for another cup of coffee.



  1. […] built strong relationships with our staff and partners in Waslala (see this post for a great example of Iain’s focus on relationships), […]

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